March 29, 2019

Cloud Spotting on the Road to HANA

6 minute read

On the Hawaiian island of Maui lies the world’s largest dormant volcano: Haleakala. You can look out above the clouds from the viewing platform atop, getting a unique perspective at the skyborne condensation that bring soft rains to the lush island below.

My last blog post explained why we refer to the transition of SAP ERP customers to S/4 HANA as “the road to HANA.” There, I explained the importance of moving unstructured content out of your SAP system database to reduce the data footprint of the in-memory HANA database. In this post, I will step back and outline the advantages that we see of coordinating the move to HANA with a move out of the datacenter and in to the “cloud”.

Before I get in to the details, I want to stretch the analogy of the “road to HANA” a little further. Both the transition to HANA and the transition to using cloud-based computing resources can be daunting in similar ways. In both cases, though, the advantages of knowing the terrain ahead enables the journey to be smooth. And knowing what the world looks like when you have reached the clouds can inspire you to make the climb.

S/4 HANA in the Cloud

With SAP’s deadline of 2025 for its ERP customers to transition to S/4 HANA looming ahead, one option for making this transition is to coordinate the database move with a move to cloud-based computing resources. This allows your organization to reduce data center costs while quickly provisioning the computing assets needed for HANA, as well as “future-proofing” your implementation by making it easier to increase performance as computing technology advances.

Cloud adoption is increasing each year with the apparent primary driver for this shift being the cost of maintaining private data centers. For organizations to maintain competitiveness, it is necessary to reduce total cost of ownership (TCO) for IT systems. Migrating these systems to cloud-based computing can reduce data center space and hosting costs by 50 -73%.

SAP ERP and NetWeaver have historically run on a multitude of OS and database platforms: commercial UNIX, Microsoft Windows, and Linux operating systems; and MS SQL, Oracle, DB2, MySQL, and other databases. With HANA, however, they have broken this trend, running only on certain enterprise Linux distributions as of March 2019. This is particularly significant for those organizations making the move to HANA that do not currently run their SAP software on these Linux distributions.

Coordinating the transition to cloud-based computing with the transition to an SAP HANA database then makes particular sense for these organizations. In lieu of spinning up an unfamiliar system inside their data center, IT resources can be applied to managing other technical challenges of the move to HANA. The modular nature of cloud-based computing allows for scaling up and down and quickly provisioning proof-of-concept or pilot systems for the transition project.


Getting to cloud level

There are several options for organizations to consider when coordinating the move to the SAP HANA database and S/4 HANA system with a move to cloud-based computing. One option is to perform a “lift and shift” of the current environment to cloud-based resources. Once the landscape is moved whole-parcel to the cloud, the transition to HANA and S/4 HANA can be taken on individually or together. Other organizations may prefer to transition the database to HANA at the same time they move their landscape to the cloud in a “lift and migrate”. They can then take on the implementation of S/4 HANA. Finally, an organization may decide to perform a “greenfield” implementation of S/4 HANA in the cloud, essentially re-implementing their processes directly in a new S/4 HANA environment.

Performing a “lift and shift” will make a lot of sense to organizations with large and/or complex landscapes. It can also be the strategy for reducing strain on IT resources or extremely risk-averse organizations. The benefits of data center cost reductions are realized to a certain extent, and follow on migrations are then able to take place within the cloud platform. From there, the decision on whether to implement S/4 HANA at the same time as migrating to the in-memory HANA database is likely to be based on the complexity of the implemented ERP processes and the amount of customizations present.

It is also possible for those organizations that are ready to migrate off their current database to “lift and migrate.” This may be due to the available support for the legacy database platform in the cloud, as the databases supported by SAP ERP and NetWeaver are numerous and not all are readily available in cloud platforms. This approach takes more initial planning than the “lift and shift” strategy, but positions the organization to flip the switch on the cloud and then concentrate solely on the implementation of S/4 HANA.

Finally, for those organizations preferring a fresh-start in S/4 HANA, a full greenfield implementation is possible in the cloud. Cloud-based computing allows for spinning up the new landscape in parallel with an existing legacy landscape without having to provision any new resources in the current datacenter. This will take more extensive planning for the cutover to the new systems, but can be a fantastic option for approaching S/4 HANA without the baggage of previous decisions, and with the lessons learned from previous implementations.

Somewhere over the rainbow

Whether in weather or enterprise computing, it is easy to be wary of the oncoming cloud. For the enterprise organization, the transition to cloud-based computing can be a great unfamiliar unknown and difficult to see through or beyond. However, the ability to reduce costs and provision quickly through cloud platforms can be powerful tools for empowering other technology transformations.

As we have seen, this is particularly true for the transition to the in-memory SAP HANA database and the S/4 HANA ERP system. The technical challenges in making this transition are addressed by the realized promise of the cloud-based computing revolution. The specific strategies for taking advantage of this are going to differ between organizations but will follow those outlined here. Regardless of how you get there, I promise that the view from cloud level is worth the journey.

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